PHOTOS: Shedd Aquarium welcomes rockhopper penguin chick

PHOTOS: Shedd Aquarium welcomes rockhopper penguin chick

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(©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez) (©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Visitors to the Shedd Aquarium are getting a rare opportunity to watch the growth and development of a rockhopper penguin chick born at the aquarium last month.

The chick, hatched about a month ago, is currently on display at the aquarium's Polar Play Zone exhibit. It's gaining weight, eating and building a relationship with its feathery neighbors, a statement from the aquarium said.

The aquarium says guests have the rare opportunity to observe the bird as it grows and is cared for by its mother and father.

The gender of the chick has not yet been determined, according to the aquarium. It is difficult to identify gender in penguins without genetic testing, as there is no observable difference in male and female anatomy.

The little penguin's mother and father are sharing parenting responsibilities in equal shifts, the Shedd reports. Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training for Shedd, says the chicks parents are feeding the bird well.

But there are more milestones ahead. The chick will learn to eat on its own before acquiring waterproof plumage and diving in to test its swimming skills for the first time.

Because of disease and rising ocean temperatures, the rockhopper population is listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, according to the statement.

Shedd animal care experts observe and weigh the bird daily. Born at 75 grams, the chick gains about 40 grams per day and is now at a healthy 1,019 grams.

The Shedd has been part of a successful penguin breeding program since 1991, and has contributed to several penguin rescue efforts, the statement said.

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